articipants validating a report on the impact of COVID-19 on cargo handling logistics have asked both the private and public institutions to ensure that the report is fully implemented, citing that excellent studies that have been generated in the past have fallen short in implementation.
The Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA) and Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) partnered with Africa Economic Research Consortium (AERC) to generate the report that has offered several recommendations to inform policy making to enhance efficiency as the region strikes to ensure a seamless flow of the cargo during this period of pandemic.
The report was yesterday validated by representatives drawn from all the East African Countries by giving various inputs through a virtual meeting that was co-chaired by SCEA and FEAFFA.
Mr. John Mathenge, an executive board member at FEAFFA, noted that commercial disputes in the East African region have recorded a significant increase in the recent past.
Despite this increase, Mathenge noted, nobody wants to take responsibility, a shortcoming that can be addressed by creating systems that can allow various actors to be held accountable. This can be done by embracing automation in exchanging transport related documents and creating a properly integrated border management system to help in improving efficiency and predictability.
PJ Shah, a Kenya International Warehousing and Freight Association (KIFWA) member asked the drafters of the report to dissect its points of action and write to the agencies involved for full implementation.
“COVID-19 has given us an opportunity to change how we do business,” Shah said.
Shah noted some agencies were still slow in embracing automation and the clearing agents are still expected to deliver physical documents. Since most of the importers are compliant, at about 85 percent, emphasis should go to passing cargo through the green channel- where it is not subject to rigorous clearing but processed based on risk assessment.
The government should also acknowledge and promote professionalization of the Freight Forwarding sector through legislation, Shah noted. FEAFFA has already developed a model bill to regulate and promote Freight Forwarding, which is at various stages of development in EAC countries.
Regional Revenue Authorities, according to Shah, have not integrated and therefore the systems are not speaking to each other, which has hindered cross border cargo movement. There is also an enormous challenge in the interconnectivity between the rail and road. For instance, all the containers that are released on the Merchant Haulage Model attract empty containers demurrage.
Mr. Stephen Analo, the Principal Customs Officer at East African Community (EAC) Secretariat, said that COVID-19 exposed the existence of poor human resources across the supply chain. There were many challenges that were experienced since people were not ready to respond to changes that were prompted by various measures that were put in place to ensure seamless flow of the cargo and protect people against COVID-19, he said.
Clement Kamendu, representing Intergovernmental Standing Committee on Shipping (ISCOS) also emphasized on the need to have border operations automated and integrated especially at LungaLunga – Horohoro, where despite the existence of infrastructure, one has to pass through immigrations on both sides of the border.
Fully operationalization of the border crossing points will eliminate the need to construct parking bays at the busy border points since it will address the problem of long queue witnessed during the early days of pandemic, according to Emmanuel Imaniranzi, representing Central Corridor Transit Transport Facilitation Authority (CCTTFA).
Having been fully automated, the government should also allow the private sector players to use the system they have put in place, according to Diana Karimba, Coordinator at the National Logistics Platform (NLP) Uganda.
Proposals were also made to list the truck drivers among the essential service providers and prioritize their vaccination. They suffered immensely during the pandemic in early days and at some point became super-spreaders of the virus across the borders.
SCEA said that a team drawn from the council, FEAFFA and Kenya Ships Agents Association (KSAA) will be formed to provide monitoring and evaluation of the study’s recommendations. The report was done with the technical support of AERC, a Nairobi based research institution.
“The technical report has now been given to us. As business advocacy agencies, it is now our work to ensure that it is implemented,” SCEA Chief Executive Officer said.